Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Just one. But the light bulb has to want to change.

That’s what we tell people when they ask if they can really improve their communication skills. Of course you can improve. But, like the light bulb, only if you want to. So if you have the desire, here are a few ideas on how to improve:

Practice: Before your next presentation, practice it out loud five times from beginning to end without stopping. By far the biggest reason people are bad speakers is that they simply don’t rehearse. Serious rehearsal alone will make many people instantly better. We worked with one Investment VP who insisted she was a terrible speaker. When she practiced her presentation 15 times, she was suddenly considered one of the best in her company.

Seek opportunities to speak: We worked with an attorney recently who was a strong speaker but had the reputation as a poor one. By seeking out opportunities, he not only got valuable practice, but he increased his reputation as a leader and changed his colleagues’ perceptions.

Pick one area to improve: Most people would dramatically improve their overall communication ability simply by focusing on one area and improving. If you tend to ramble, focus on making sure that you have a clear three-point outline and stick to it. If you have a weak, monotone voice, focus on sounding excited and passionate.

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

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